AIChE: Safety Culture Comes from Top

Monday, April 27, 2015 @ 02:04 PM gHale


By Gregory Hale
Positive process safety culture needs to come from the top and filter down through the chain of command.

“Process safety practices have been around for years and have prevented major accidents in the industry,” said Mike Broadribb, senior principal consultant at BakerRisk, during his Monday session at the 2015 AIChE Spring Meeting and 11th Global Congress on Process Safety in Austin, TX. “Today we have been suffering from inadequate safety.”

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Broadribb really started focusing on the subject of safety culture when he said, “our customers would say ‘our culture sucks, what the hell do we do know?’”

In short, to hike process safety culture in any company, Broadribb said there needs to be buy in and a sustained effort from senior leadership.

Essential features for a strong safety culture in means users must:
• Enforce high standards
• Maintain a sense of vulnerability
• Open and effective two-way communication
• Timely response to safety issues

There has been a paradigm shift in safety over the years, Broadribb said, from improving operator errors to now improving management safety behaviors.

“We need to empower employees to changing safety,” he said.

As Broadribb mentioned, senior leadership has to buy in and bring about a change in culture so that means they need to recognize what their culture is and then they need to understand where they want it to be. They also have to be smart in how to manage change, which can be a difficult transition.

“Leaders need to lead by example. Leaders need to understand unwritten rules and need to motivate and persuade individuals to understand change and why it is happening,” he said. “Change is difficult for people. But leaders need overcome resistance to change and help workers understand why change is needed. They need to learn ‘what is in it for me.’”

There are levels of change, Broadribb said:
1. I don’t understand it. Management needs to provide clarity.
2. I don’t like it. Leaders need to provide clarity.
3. I don’t trust you. You need to build relationships to anchor any change

Some of the top ways leaders can develop a change in culture is to:
• Communicate
• Act as a role model
• Participate in the change
• Be a leader

The ideas behind changing culture came into play, when Broadribb’s colleague, Steven Wheeler, also a senior principal consultant at BakerRisk, talked about a case history of changing a safety culture at one company.

“The client wanted to create better safety ownership and they wanted front line supervisors to take ownership,” Wheeler said. “They wanted a program that was simple to use that had measurable results.”

Among the multiple action items, they ended up creating a project manual that would be the “go to” resource to help give answers to any process safety issues that may arise.

The culture change process included four teams:
• A management expectation team
• Design and deliberation team
• A process implementation team
• A field coaching team

By having a team approach along various lines of command, it was possible to see culture change occurring across the corporation as a team effort, Wheeler said.

The project took two years, but by the end of the time frame, one survey showed 70 percent of workers were more aware of hazards and 90 percent of the workers saw the business value of a safety program.

That realization will bring dividends down the road.

“Changing a culture is long journey,” Broadribb said. “There is a lot of time and effort that goes into the process. It takes a lot of time with individuals. This was two years in the making, but that is just the start. Leadership has to maintain the path forward.”



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